I present the Miklanian Navy's premiere fighter-interceptor, the F84 Seahawk. Born out of a late 1960s requirement to replace the excellent but aging F80 Shark, the Seahawk provided the fleet with an exceptional offensive and defensive air superiority fighter well into the 21st century.
Beloved by it's pilots and very effective in a dogfight, the Shark was nonetheless lacking in several areas. Principally, as an interceptor. As the threat of anti-ship missiles launched by Communist bombers grew, the need for an aircraft that could engage multiple targets simultaneously and at long range became apparent. The 50's vintage Shark had been a serious improvement over previous fleet defense fighters, being the first supersonic carrier-borne aircraft ever fielded by Miklania. However it only carried short range infrared homing missiles. Attempts to fit it with radar guided missiles able to engage enemy bombers from the frontal aspect failed, mostly due to the limited growth potential of the nose design. In 1968 a Request For Proposals was put out to industry to build a better aircraft. The requirements were simple and open ended. The aircraft had to exceed Mach 2.5, carry at least four of the upcoming Black Arrow missiles, utilize "advanced avionics and have capacity for emerging electronic developments", and be suitable for operation on all current and projected classes of CATOBAR aircraft carriers. Cost was secondary to achieving the desired performance. Only two companies responded. Vance, makers of the Shark, pitched a radically altered version of the design. It was Mach 3 capable, carried a larger radar, and could carry four Black Arrows and four Sidewinders. Vance invested heavily in the first requirement, that for speed. The radar was based on a previous model that they had tried to mate with the F80. It placed a serious burden on the single pilot.
The other submission was from the newly merged Nolan-Garrett company. Garrett had been the Navy's go to vendor for carrier aircraft through the Imperial War, but had failed to secure any of the Navy's post war contracts. Nolan was a company run by a flamboyant billionaire best known for making cutting edge racing aircraft and a handful of interceptors during the war. Both companies had fallen on hard times and needed to do something drastic to avoid being bought out by General Miklanian, who had already gobbled up North Eastern Aviation, the country's largest maker of tactical aircraft. The solution was a merger, which combined with engineering staff and patents quietly divested by NEA before the hostile takeover by GM, gave the new company a huge trust of brainpower. The naval expertise of Garrett combined with the high speed research done by Nolan, plus cutting edge computer systems that NEA had been working on, was exactly the combination necessary to meet the challenge. The proposal ended up as a twin engine fighter with a tandem cockpit and variable geometry wings. Two 20mm cannon, four Black Arrows, two Sparrows, and two Sidewinders were provided as the armament. The Navy was most impressed, however, with the radar. The aircraft, now dubbed YF84, packed a large antennae into a solid nosecone, backed up by the most sophisticated computers ever mounted in a fighter. The new back end hardware was able to automate many of the tasks previously performed by the pilot or a dedicated radar operator. Sophisticated ECCM processing enabled it to see through heavy jamming much more easily than the Vance submission, now dubbed YF83. The back seater was intended to operate the elaborate offensive and defensive electronic warfare suite and to navigate for the pilot, relieving him of some of his duties on a long patrol flight. The promise of the high tech avionics suite to take full advantage of the Black Arrow's performance was the clinching argument for the Navy. The Navy announced Nolan-Garrett as the winner on 14 August 1970. Vance didn't stand a chance. They built a prototype but it never flew. The "Super Shark" could go faster but couldn't match NG's aircraft in any other way. They protested the Navy's declaration of a winner before a fly-off could be conducted, but the protest was thrown out by the War Department. Failure to secure the contract resulted in Vance's merger with commercial aviation giant Boering.
Nolan-Garrett named their victorious fighter Seahawk, after their legendary gull-wing Imperial War fighter. The first flight was at Kecskemet Air Force Base on 11 December 1971, with veteran test pilot Doug Scotsman at the controls. The flight was uneventful, and Scotsman praised the fighter's handling characteristics. The second flight, however, did not go so smoothly. Seconds after rotation, the starboard engine stalled and fell out the back of the aircraft. The unexpected weight loss, combined with the adverse yaw effects of having the port engine in afterburner, caused the aircraft to pitch forward, roll 80 degrees, and yaw sharply to the right. Scotsman was again at the controls, and realizing that recovery was impossible at only 100 feet, ejected from the jet. Scotsman survived with no major injuries, but the prototype slammed into the end of the runway and disintegrated in a massive fireball. The program was halted, and a military led investigation was launched to determine the cause of the failure. Pilot error was ruled out quickly, and there was little reason to believe that the design was at fault, the engines mounts were very secure. The investigators determined that it was either a defect in manufacturing or a maintenance fault. The air frame and all of it's sub-assemblies had been carefully inspected as the prototype was being built, and the half-completed second prototype showed no problems. There had however, been a practice engine swap the morning of the second flight, where the engines were swapped from one side to another to ensure that they could be quickly and easily replaced in operational conditions. Many believed that the one engine had not been properly reinstalled after the swap, but with nothing remaining of the air frame, and only half the starboard engine remaining after it struck the runway, it was impossible to determine with absolute certainty if this was the case.
Flight tests resumed when the second prototype came off the production line. The pace of testing was much more cautious, but it showed no problems. The program was back up to speed by the end of January. Public attention, however had been drawn to the program and the wrathful eye of the Senate glared upon Nolan-Garrett. Faced with an unspoken but very real threat of cancellation, company executives promised that the flight testing would be complete by the original end date despite the set back. The herculean effort was achieved by use of an innovative new flight test instrumentation system that enabled data to be processed and observed by engineers on the ground in real time, rather than after the flight. This allowed them to communicate with the test pilots and have them rerun a section of the test or make a change on the fly. This increased the productivity of individual flights dramatically. The new system combined with aggressive pacing and the tireless efforts of NG employees ensured that all milestones were met by 8 September 1973, one day before the originally scheduled completion date. The test regime had proved the aircraft to be an exceptionally fine handling machine, and few changes were made to the basic design before it was approved for full rate production. The most significant change was the switch from 20mm to 25mm revolver cannons. The first operational aircraft were delivered to the Navy in December of 1973, equipping the elite VF-58 squadron.
An F84A of VF-58, "The Wild Hunt". This squadron, while conducting operational trials on the carrier Nemesis
, were dispatched to observe the situation developing in Orsandia. The Communist government launched an attack on the carrier group, which was successfully defended by a combination of the squadron of Seahawks and the new Typhon cruiser Lacademonian
. Like all other Navy aircraft of the period, the Seahawks of VF-48 wore the Skyflash Wraith color scheme, which was comprised of off-white sides and upper surfaces and anti-flash white undersides. Unlike all other naval aviation squadrons, VF-58 rarely use black anti-glare around the cockpit. The aircraft is shown here with the basic Air-to-Air weapons loadout, four AIM-47C Black Arrow long range missiles, two AIM-7F Sparrow, and two AIM-9D Sidewinders.
The first squadron to be equipped with the upgraded F84B was the Navy's oldest squadron, VF-4, the "Wildcats". Assigned initially to the old carrier RMS Intrepid
, they eventually found themselves attached to the Dawn In Heaven
's CAW, before becoming the Navy's Fleet Replacement Squadron for fighters in 1989. Upgrades to the B model include the addition of the stabilized camera system, improvements to the engines, minor updates to the avionics and EW suite, and the addition of 10 extra rounds to each 25mm gun magazine. Around 1978, naval aircraft switched from off-white and anti-flash white schemes to a grungier blue-grey scheme called Skywatcher Phantom. The aircraft is fitted for an extended range CAP, with four Black Arrows, two Sidewinders, and two drop tanks. Non-droppable external tanks with a square cross section can be carried side-by side on the underside of the fuselage for ferrying without tanker support.
VF-312, the "Night Stalkers" was originally raised as a night fighter development group in 1943, during the Imperial War. They were the first to receive all weather day-night fighters, and were the second to receive the new Seahawk. They upgraded to the F84B+ configuration, which enhanced the communications equipment, in 1984. This squadron, attached to the Dawn In Heaven
from 1971 until the carrier's retirement in 2015, would be on call for multiple crises, including the 2014 Imperialonian invasion of Sadievi. The aircraft is fitted with six AIM-7Ms and two AIM-9Ls, a configuration optimized for dogfighting. Even though they were designed to shoot down bombers, later versions of the high performance active radar Black Arrow were considered by pilots to be better missiles for engaging enemy fighters at long range than the unreliable SARH guided Sparrow.
The F84B+ was delivered to VF-871, the "Flying Sharks" in 1985. This squadron, along with VF-312, constituted the Dawn
's fighter/interceptor compliment from the 1970s until 2015. The aircraft is shown displaying the limited ground attack options that would remain in the B model fleet until additional launch racks and weapon types were cleared for service in the 1990s.
"The Wild Hunt" was the only squadron to receive the F84C upgrade. The C model utilized a new infrared search and track system under the nose in place of the stabilized camera system. The IRST proved to be quite unsatisfactory in service, and was removed from the squadron's aircraft entirely in 2004. Other improvements that were more useful were the inclusion of a modern glass cockpit and a brand new, highly sophisticated electronic warfare system. Both the pilot and backseater were given two large monochromatic MFDs to work with. The squadron, after being equipped with the new aircraft in 1988, jumped between CAWs as necessary until 2015, when Stormkeeper
became the only CATOBAR carrier in Miklanian service. They were then assigned to CAW-2. They were the last to receive the all-new F84D, in 2016. Some aviation enthusiasts claim that this is because the C was fitted with a specialized electronic warfare system that not even the new D model had. The aircraft is shown with the highly effective standard Air-to-Air setup.
The Miklanian Marine Corps never adopted the Seahawk, even though a strike version under the name FM84 was proposed. The aircraft would have had extraordinary capabilities, however it would come with an enormous price tag. Instead, they replaced their aging A8D Strike Sharks with the Svalbardian FM8A Banshee, which was substantially cheaper, required less maintenance, and was better suited for short field operations, all very important things to the Marines. The design was first displayed in the striking Marine Corps Dusk Ghost night attack scheme. Modifications to the basic air superiority model include the replacements of the twin revolver cannons with a single GAU-12 Equalizer on the left side of the fuselage. This would be retained on the 21st century F84D Super Seahawk. A Blackeye Nav/Attack FLIR, identical to the one used on RMMC AV8B Auks is mounted on the underside of the nose to provide the night attack capability. This was paired with a new HUD instead of a projection directly onto the windscreen. The radar also had additional air to ground modes, and the options for ground attack weapons was greatly expanded. These developments, which would not see service in this guise, would be back fitted to F84Bs. The proposed aircraft was illustrated carrying far more ordnance that any previous type of Seahawk, in this case six 1000lb Paveway II laser guided bombs, four IIR guided Rifle Air-to-Ground missiles, two laser guided Rifle Air-to-Ground missiles, and two AIM-9M Sidewinders. A LANTIRN targeting pod is provided to compliment the Blackeye FLIR.
Length: 62 feet 1 inch
Wingspan: 31 feet 11 inches (swept); 68 feet (spread)
Height: 15 feet (gear up)
Empty Weight: 38,980 lbs
Loaded Weight: 60,000 lbs
Max. Takeoff Weight: 72,340 lbs
Powerplant: 2x Prance-Royce F520-PR-100 Turbofans
Thrust: 16,610 ft/lbs (dry); 30,750 ft/lbs (afterburner) each
Speed: Mach 2.84 (aerodynamic); Mach 2.4 (limited); Mach 1.1 near sea-level
Combat Radius: ~1,000 nmi (A2A loadout, 2x external tanks)
Ferry Range: 3,200 nmi with 4x external tanks
Rate of Climb: >49,000 ft/min
Service Ceiling: 60,000+ feet
Thrust-to-Weight Ratio: 1.025 loaded
Design G-load: +9/-3